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The Year in FY 2010 Spending—in Review

While you were watching the big health care debate, the fiscal year 2010 spending process was going on underneath your radar. Congress allocated more than $20,000 per U.S. family in spending during the fall. Do you know where it went?

If you don’t, perhaps it’s because the annual spending process once again went off the rails. Here’s the tale of the 2010 fiscal year:

It started back in February, when President Obama failed to submit a budget by the first Monday in February. His focus was more on the “stimulus” bill.

When we checked in on March 11th, the Congressional Budget Office had yet to produce its analysis of the president’s tardy budget. The prospects of a well-run budget process were looking grim, but maybe they could still turn around.

And it seemed like they would when the House produced its budget plan on time! April 1st—no foolin’! The Senate did too, setting the stage for spending plans with sense.

But the dream of a timely process started to fade soon. By early April it was clear that the House and Senate would not produce their final budget plan on time. They completed the budget a couple of weeks late, at the end of the month—but still with plenty of time to introduce and pass bills by the end of the fiscal year September 30th. Hope was riding high that Congress would run the trains on time.

budget_processPresident Obama limped in with his budget at the beginning of May. And that set the tone for the rest of the budget year.

It wasn’t until mid-June that the House moved the first of the twelve spending bills—just two weeks before it was supposed to finish them all. The House started to move bills at a pretty good clip, though. By the end of July, the House had passed all twelve spending bills.

The Senate wasn’t so speedy. It passed a few bills each in July, August, and September, but when it came to combining House and Senate bills for final passage, that just basically never happened.

So at the end of the fiscal year on September 30th—three months after the annual spending process was supposed to be finalized—only one bill had passed. It was the legislative branch spending bill, funding the operation of Congress for the year. That bill also contained a “continuing resolution,” allowing the rest of the government to keep running on auto-pilot through October. The spending amounted to about $1,750 per U.S. family.

In mid-October, Congress got together on the agriculture spending bill. Cost per U.S. family: about $1,180.

And toward the end of October, it passed a couple more bills—as it should have done during the summer: the homeland security spending bill ($400 per family) and the energy and water spending bill ($300 per family).

At month’s end, the “continuing resolution” was running out, so Congress attached another to the interior and environment spending bill—another $2,500 in spending per family, and an extension of government operations until December 18th.

Congress slept through November. During the second month of the 2010 fiscal year, most segments of the U.S. government didn’t have a spending plan.

money-fallingFinally, with the second continuing resolution set to expire, Congress passed a “consolidated” spending bill, which combined the transportation/housing/urban development spending bill with the commerce/justice/science, financial services, Labor-HHS, military construction/veterans, and State Department/foreign operations bills. Funding all of this for the remainder of the year was about $9,500 in spending per U.S. family.

To wrap it all up, Congress passed the defense spending bill on December 19th. $5,100 in spending per U.S. family—just two-and-a-half months late.

Add up the spending numbers above and you get a little over $20,000 in spending per U.S. family. That’s a lot of money going out to not notice! It’s complicated to follow federal spending—more so when Congress doesn’t follow its regular procedures.

We’ll continue to follow all this and work to make it more understandable. You should let your representatives know what you think about the obscurity of the process, so you can get a handle on where your money goes.

President Obama’s budget for fiscal year 2011 is due to Congress the first Monday in February.

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